Joshua 24 has the leader who followed Moses wrapping up his leadership by gathering all the people together for one last address. It is a history lesson – a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people. “Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham….and made his offspring many”. God is reminding his people that He took one man and has created this nation of many and faithfully served them. God has done this, and Joshua is calling on his people to remember. We need to be sure we stop and do the same about our journey with a faithful God.
“I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them”. God has provided. He has done all that He promised Abraham in the covenant they agreed upon. And Joshua is now reminding his people that they have to do their part to keep the blessing flowing. “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord”. The temptation facing the people of Joshua’s time is exactly the same as for us. There is a tendency to allow other things to take the place of God in our life.
Joshua challenges them to “choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. These are famous words that call us to be intentional about how we live. It is a choice we face day by day, hour by hour. Who will we serve? Who will be the Lord of our life? Will we let something other than God take that place in our heart? Of course the people replied “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” but Joshua knew better.
So he warns them. “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good”. God has faithfully been blessing these people for generations, and yet temptation still pulls them away. Joshua says “put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel”. We have to separate ourselves from those things that pull us from God. And that means we make intentional choices to put off the old. Joshua leaves them with these words – he dies at the ripe old age of 110. And his life is summarized with these words: “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel”. That is the sign of a great leader. He kept the people on course and walking with God. Well done Joshua! Are there false gods you have allowed to get in the way of walking with God? If so, time to get rid of them and get back on course!
Joshua 23 has this leader “old and well advanced in years” and he is giving his people some last instructions before he dies. He begins by reminding them “you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you”. The children of God have had an amazing transition. They were camped in the wilderness for 40 years waiting for God’s timing to enter the Promised Land. And when that time came, Joshua led them to victory and “allotted to you as an inheritance” which he reminds them of here.
He challenges them along with the reminder. “You shall possess their land, just as the Lord your God promised you”. Let’s face it. They are set up for life if they just do what God demands. “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left….you shall cling to the Lord your God”. It is pretty simple. God has blessed them with a land of their own. Joshua has apportioned it out and everyone has a place just as God promised. Now they simply have to walk with Him in obedience.
The plan is pretty simple. “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God….if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations….so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you”. Joshua warns the people. They have to stay focused on making God the center of their lives. They can’t allow the false gods and idols of those around them to take them off course. God made a covenant but it has requirements – they have to be faithful to Him and Him alone.
God demands His people be holy. He has been faithful to them, and expects the same in return. “Not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed….if you transgress the covenant….you shall perish quickly”. There is a requirement to keep what God has given them. It is not optional nor can it be something that is hit or miss. God expects it from us constantly. It is obedience!
Joshua 22 has a showdown occurring between the people on the east and west sides of the Jordan. “Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh….You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you….Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan”. The move into the Promised Land has happened as planned. The 2.5 tribes that were given land on the other side of the Jordan have faithfully helped their brethren take the rest of the land, and now Joshua is releasing them to go home.
He leaves them with this command: “be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul”. There is a pretty simple summary of how we need to live as Christ Followers. We need to walk closely with God and obey His word. It was their charge and “Joshua blessed them and sent them away” to go home to their tents across the Jordan.
On the way home, these folks stopped and “built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size”. They put it on the other side of the Jordan, not on their own land. “When the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them”. Pretty strong reaction to an altar? Just prior these folks had been fellow warriors helping the Israelites destroy their enemies and now they are threatening to wipe them out. Seems a bit rash, doesn’t it? They send Phinehas the priest and 10 chiefs to go find out what the meaning of this altar was. They assumed they were “building yourselves an altar this day in rebellion against the Lord”.
But like so many things in life, they had it all wrong. It was built “to be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the Lord”. Communication is key to understanding. And rather than make assumptions and taking action on what seemed to be, they did the right thing and sent the team to inquire. “When Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke, it was good in their eyes”. They had it all wrong, and once they listened and understood the intent, their fears were gone. They knew historically that an altar built for the wrong purpose would not go well. But the motive here was to communicate today and well into the future. “The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness….it is a witness between us that the Lord is God”.
Joshua 21 has Joshua finalizing the last details of the handing out of the Promised Land. All that remained was to deal with the Levites. They were not to be given any land but rather to be given some cities for their place to live. “The Lord commanded through Moses that we be given cities to dwell in, along with their pasturelands for our livestock”. God had set that up long before and the plan was for these priests to be provided a place to live among the tribes in cities that they would be provided.
So Joshua systematically works through the tribes and assigns cities that are to be provided to the Levites. “The cities of the Levites in the midst of the possession of the people of Israel were in all forty-eight cities with their pasturelands”. The priests weren’t isolated and pushed to the sides or marginalized in where they were to live. They were provided these 48 cities as their homes, and “these cities each had its pasturelands around it”. The Levites had livestock they had to care for, so not only did they get an allotment of cities but also land to be able to care for their animals.
So God’s covenant with His people is fulfilled. “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers”. The truth of the matter is that God always does what He says He will. God made a covenant with His people centuries earlier, and it has completely come to be. “And they took possession of it, and they settled there”. He set them up in the Promised Land – each tribe with their own area and the priests with their own cities just as He had promised. Joshua was the leader who executed the handing out of the land.
But God’s promise was more than just a new place to live. “And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands”. This covenant was about far more than a new place to lay their heads. God had promised protection on their journey and as they took their new homeland. He was faithful. He had promised them rest – that they would not continually be attacked from all sides – and He has been faithful. “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass”. God is faithful, all the time!
Joshua 20 has God direction Joshua to set up the “cities of refuge” which were commanded to Moses long before. The purpose of these cities was to create a place where someone could flee and take refuge in the event they caused injury or death to someone accidentally. The pattern of the day was ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ so if someone caused a death, often the response was to kill them. But there were times when someone might “strike any person without intent or unknowingly”.
In other words, if it was an accident, you could flee to these cities and be protected. “If the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past”. The death had to be unintentional, but these cities were a place of safety until there was time for a trial. It was a way to protect someone until they could come “before the congregation for judgment” and determine guilt or innocence.
If innocent, this person could return home to his own town and place. There were a handful of cities that were designated as cities of refuge:
- “Kedesh in Galilee
- Shechem in Ephraim
- Kiriath-arba in Judah
- Bezer in Reuben
- Ramoth in Gilead
- Golan in Bashan”
So six cities across the Promised Land to assure justice was handled fairly.
It is a short chapter which defines God’s heart here for justice for His people. “These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation”. The intent is not to let people off the hook, but to be sure that justice is handled correctly and not based on vengeance. God loves us all and wants the best for each of us.
Joshua 19 has the final assignments being given for the Promised Land to the last seven tribes. The second lot drawn was for the tribe of Simeon who was given seventeen cities. Interestingly, their land was actually first given to the tribe of Judah. “The inheritance of the people of Simeon formed part of the territory of the people of Judah….the portion of the people of Judah was too large for them”. So Joshua took some of the land that had originally been given to Judah and handed it to Simeon.
Then comes lots three through seven. It went as follows:
“Lot 3 – Zebulun – twelve cities
Lot 4 – Issachar – sixteen cities
Lot 5 – Asher – twenty-two cities
Lot 6 – Naphtali – nineteen cities
Lot 7 – Dan – seventeen cities”
Joshua has handled the hard work of dividing up the covenant land that God promised Abraham so many generations earlier. But there was one more thing to be done. “When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun….they gave him the city that he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim”. Joshua was promised his own little part of heaven, and they gave it to him by command of the Lord.
It wasn’t quite move in ready, but “he rebuilt the city and settled in it”. Joshua has fulfilled the leadership role he was assigned. He assisted Moses for 40 years and then led God’s people the final steps to claim their Promised Land. The division was done by “Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot at Shiloh before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.” They got the work done. They did the job well. Everyone has their home!
Joshua 18 has Joshua calling the “whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there”. He is ready to put this land acquisition and assignment behind him. But there were “seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned”. He had successfully assigned five tribes to their inheritance, and the Levites won’t be getting any, but the other seven are not getting it done. So Joshau calls them together and tells them to get with the program.
“How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you”? God has made a promise and covenant to give each tribe their own part of the Promised Land. But for some reason, these last seven tribes are not taking action. They haven’t gone out and conquered the land and created their future. So Joshua has them all together to try and motivate some action. And he gives them a plan to get it done.
“Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me”. This is not really any different than what he had done some 45 plus years ago. Go out and look over the land and find out what is there. So he sends them out and they are instructed to make notes of what they see and what there is to be handed out. And then bring back the list to Joshua who would take it from there.
Of course, he used only the most sophisticated tools to divide up the remaining land. He looked at the territory knowing he needed to divide it into seven portions. And then he “cast lots for you here before the Lord our God”. Sometimes we make things far too complicated. Joshua had 21 men go out and scout the land and write down what they found. “Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion” based on how God directed the lots to be drawn. It was simple and effective. And it accomplished the desired result. The land was assigned and the people could get on with life.